Only one team played like it.
Martin Brodeur stopped 38 shots, and Scott Niedermayer and Patrik Elias each had a goal and two assists Saturday as the Devils beat the Bruins 5-2 and moved into first place in the Atlantic Division. The teams will play again on Sunday, with the Eastern Conference playoff seedings on the line.
``It's still a big game for us,'' Devils forward Scott Gomez said. ``It just shows you how crazy this league is. Anything could happen.''
Playing without captain and leading scorer Joe Thornton, the Bruins failed to pick up a point for just the third time in 14 games. Andrew Raycroft, a leading candidate for rookie of the year, allowed the five goals on 30 New Jersey shots as the Devils won their fourth straight game.
They have a chance to make it five in the regular-season finale.
The Eastern Conference playoff seedings won't be settled until Sunday when the Bruins can finish second with a victory. New Jersey will be either third or sixth.
``It's all about playing well going into the playoffs,'' Devils forward John Madden said. ``It's very important to be able to have confidence and believe in each other going into the playoffs.''
Erik Rasmussen, Turner Stevenson and Tommy Albelin also scored for the Devils, who entered the day second in the NHL on the power play and added two more goals with a man advantage.
``We've got to stay out of the penalty box,'' said Sergei Samsonov, who scored for Boston. ``We spent too much time in the penalty box and it just breaks the momentum.''
Martin Lapointe also scored for Boston. Thornton was not in the lineup two days after he hit the ice hard following a slash and sustained what the team will only describe as an ``upper body injury.''
Rasmussen scored for New Jersey in the first, then the Bruins tied it when Sean O'Donnell threaded a pass through the neutral zone to Lapointe. He squeezed through a pair of defenders at the blue line and went in all alone on Brodeur.
Thirteen seconds after an interference penalty on Dan McGillis, Niedermayer took a pass from Viktor Kozlov and lofted it past Raycroft. Seventeen seconds after that, Michal Grosek took a double minor for high sticking; with 39.1 seconds left in the period and 1:15 left in the four-minute power play, Raycroft left a rebound just to the left of the net and Stevenson swiped it in to make it 3-1.
The Bruins made it 3-2 when Samsonov worked a give and go with Michael Nylander. Nylander's centering pass got caught up in traffic and bounced out to Samsonov, who beat Brodeur while the defense was occupied putting Travis Green on his seat in the net.
The Devils made it 4-2 when Scott Gomez hit Albelin at the side of the net. He put the puck on his backhand and wristed it through Raycroft's legs. New Jersey made it 5-2 off a faceoff in the Boston zone right after a high-sticking penalty by Jiri Slegr in the final minutes.
|Erik Rasmussen (7) ASST: Jamie Langenbrunner (16), Jan Hrdina (21)|
1 - 0 NJD
|Martin Lapointe (15) ASST: Sean O'Donnell (10)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Scott Niedermayer (14) ASST: Viktor Kozlov (20), Paul Martin (18)|
2 - 1 NJD
|PPG - Turner Stevenson (14) ASST: Patrik Elias (42), Scott Niedermayer (39)|
3 - 1 NJD
|Sergei Samsonov (16) ASST: Travis Green (5), Michael Nylander (11)|
3 - 2 NJD
|Tommy Albelin (1) ASST: Scott Gomez (55), Patrik Elias (43)|
4 - 2 NJD
|Patrik Elias (38) ASST: Scott Gomez (56)|
5 - 2 NJD
|Michael Nylander Holding the stick|
|Daniel Mcgillis Interference|
|Michal Grosek Hi-sticking|
|Michal Grosek Hi-sticking|
|Colin White Slashing|
|Sergei Gonchar Slashing|
|Patrik Elias Hooking - Obstruction|
|Sergei Samsonov Holding the stick|
|Raymond Giroux Holding the stick|
|Michael Nylander Hi-sticking|
|Sergei Brylin Hi-sticking|
|Jiri Slegr Hi-sticking|